FORMS OF INFINITIVES IN ENGLISH

This post helps you understand different forms of an infinitive and when to do that.

An infinitive is often used in the present form (To + V1), also known as the simple infinitive, but it has some others forms too.

What is an infinitive?

An infinitive is a non-finite verb that functions either as a noun, adjective, or adverb.

Examples:

  • To need to eat something. (working as the object of the verb ‘need’)
  • I need something to eat. (working as an adjective, modifying the pronoun ‘something’)
  • I went there to eat dinner. (working as an adverb, giving the reason of the action)

Now, let’s understand the different forms an infinitive has and how to use it.

Forms of an infinitive
Forms of an infinitive

The forms of an infinitive

An infinitive has the following 4 forms:

  1. Simple (present) infinitive
  2. Continuous infinitive
  3. Perfect infinitive
  4. Perfect continuous infinitive

1. Simple infinitive

A simple infinitive is the most used infinitive in English. As a non-finite verb, it refers to a present time or a future time. It can be used either in the active voice or in the passive voice.

Examples:

Ashish wants to help the kids.

Subject = Ashish
Main verb = wants
Infinitive (direct object) = to help
Object of the infinitive = the kids

‘To help’ is the simple infinitive in the active voice. It works as the object of the verb ‘want’. The subject wants an action: to help the kids. The doer of the main verb (want) and the infinitive (help) is the same: Ashish. The subject wants something: an action that he himself does.

Ashish wants to be helped.

Subject = Ashish
Main verb = wants
Infinitive (direct object) = to be helped

The infinitive here is in the passive voice: to be helped. It is working as the object of the verb ‘want’. The subject ‘Ashish’ wants something: an action that he receives. He wants somebody to do something to him: help him.

Simple infinitive (active voice)

A simple infinitive is used in the active voice when the action in the infinitive is performed by the subject or the object (generally the subject).

Structure: to + V1

Examples:

  • To go there alone is dangerous.
  • To rest is the only thing I want right now.
  • One of my talents is to mimic people.
  • The person to contact is Max.
  • They forced me to leave.
  • I order you to do it again.

Simple infinitive (passive voice)

A simple infinitive is used in the passive voice when the action in the infinitive is received by the subject or the object (generally the subject).

Structure: to + be + past participle (V3)

Examples:

  • To be doubted works like a fuel sometimes.
  • I want to be respected. I deserve it.
  • I hate to be told what to do.
  • They need to be heard.
  • I chose to be beaten in that match.
  • Nobody deserved to be killed.
Simple infinitive (active) Simple infinitive (passive)
I want to love her.I want to be loved.
Sam hates to call at night. Sam hates to be called at night.
We were happy to help them. We were happy to be helped them.

2. Simple continuous infinitive

The simple continuous infinitive is used to refer to a noun (an action) in the continuous state. It is only used in the active voice; it can’t be used in the passive form.

Structure: to + be + present participle (V1+ING)

You are pretending to be sleeping.

Subject = you
Helping verb = are
Main verb = pretending
Direct object = to be sleeping

Meaning: You are pretending that you are sleeping.

‘To be sleeping’ is the object of the verb ‘pretending’. The subject is pretending something: an action that is going on.

Examples:

  • He seems to be crying.
  • I am happy to be working here.
  • You are pretending to be sleeping.
  • Are you denying to be talking to Jacob right now?

3. Perfect infinitive

The perfect infinitive is used to refer to a past time. It can be used in both the active voice and the passive voice.

He is pretending to have copied your assignment.

Subject = He
Helping verb = is
Main verb = pretending
Direct object (infinitive) = to have copied
Object of the infiitive = your assignment

Here, the subject is denying something (an action) that happened in the past. The perfect infinitive here is working as the object of the verb ‘pretending’. And note that it is in the active voice. The doer of the infinitive is the subject.

Alternative: He is pretending that he copied your assignment.

I am pretending to have been contacted by them.

Here, the perfect infinitive refers to a past action, and the subject here receives the action. The infinitive is in the passive voice.

Alternative: I am denying that I had been contacted by them.
Alternative: I am denying that they had contacted me.

Perfect infinitive (active voice)

The perfect infinitive refers to a past time and the action (infinitive) is performed by the subject or the object. The infinitive refers to an activity that finished before the main verb.

Structure: to + have + past participle (V3)

Examples:

  • I am happy to have done this. (I am happy about an action that I did in the past.)
  • He admitted to have robbed the shop. (He admitted that he had robbed the bank.)
  • You are just pretending to have watched this movie. (You are pretending that you have watched this movie.)

Perfect infinitive (passive voice)

The perfect infinitive is used in the passive voice to refer to a past action acted upon the subject or the object.

Structure: to + have + been + past participle (V3)

Examples:

  • I am happy to have been selected for the trip. (I am happy that I have been selected for the trip.)
  • She is claiming to have been molested. (She is claiming that she has been molested.)
  • He was pretending to have been cheated. (He was pretending that he had been cheated.)

4. Perfect continuous infinitive

The perfect continuous infinitive is used to refer to an action (non-finite) that was continuing for some time in the past or an action that started in the past and is going on in the present. It is only used in the active voice.

Structure: to + have + been + present participle (V1+ing)

You were pretending to have been sleeping.

Subject = you
Helping verb = were
Main verb = pretending
Object = to have been sleeping

Meaning: You were pretending that you had been sleeping.

‘To have been sleeping’ is the perfect continuous infinitive that is working as the object of the verb ‘pretending’ and referring to an action that was continuing for some time in the past.

Examples:

  • You seem to have been drinking for some hours.
  • I am happy to have been working here.
  • We were glad to have been living there.
  • He pretended to have been working all day.
Types of infinitivesActive voicePassive voice
Simple infinitive 1. I want to sleep.
2. To do this is difficult.
1. I want to be respected.
2. To be paid well is what I want.
Simple continuous infinitive 1. He refused to be working.
2. I am happy to be doing this.
NOT USED
Perfect infinitive 1. He was pretending to have taken the shot.
2. I am happy to have written this book.
1. He was pretending to have been selected for the trip.
2. I am happy to have been considered for the job.
Perfect continuous infinitive 1. He seems to have been doing it for some time.
2. We are glad to have been coming here.
NOT USED

FAQs

1. What is an infinitive?

An infinitive is ‘TO + V1’ form of a verb that functions as a noun, adjective, or adverb.

2. How many types of infinitives we have in English?

We have 6 types of infinitives in English:

  • Simple infinitive active voice
  • Simple infinitive passive voice
  • Simple continuous infinitive
  • Perfect infinitive active voice
  • Perfect infinitive passive voice
  • Perfect continuous infinitive

3. What are the 4 types of infinitives?

An infinitive has four forms based on the time it refers to in a sentence. Here are the four types of infinitives we have in English: the Simple infinitive, the Simple continuous infinitive, the Perfect infinitive, and the Perfect continuous infinitive

4. How do you write infinitive form?

An infinitive in the simple form is formed using the particle ‘TO’ and the verb in the base form ‘V1’. Examples: to sleep, to dance, to teach, to sing, etc.

5. How do you identify an infinitive?

There are two things that help us indentify an infinitive in a sentence. The first thing is its apperence. It is formed using a participle ‘TO’ and a verb in the base form ‘V1’. The second thing is its function; an infinitive functions as a noun, adjective, or adverb.

  • I like to sing. (noun)
  • He is the right guy to marry. (adjective)
  • I am doing this to help students. (adverb)

The infinitive can be in other forms (mentioned above) too.

Different forms of an infinitive

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